Aug 8, 2017
Earlier this year, the County started the Sonoma County Immigration Initiative to address the heightened fear and insecurity caused by new federal actions by finding ways to support our immigrant communities and nonprofit partners who serve them. Each Supervisor will be hosting a community meeting in their district to bring attention to this issue, help inform residents of their rights and available services, provide a forum for service providers, and receive input and feedback from the community. Community meetings will consist of a presentation followed by a resource fair with local organizations and legal service providers.
Assessing County and Community Programs – Identifying services for immigrants, analyzing the sufficiency of those services as compared with the need, conducting a service gap analysis, and researching and assessing opportunities for the County to support legal services for immigrants either within the County or within community organizations.
Creating an Information Hub – Developing an online central information source for the community and distributing information to clients on immigrant rights, family preparedness, and services. This includes consolidating and disseminating information on available trainings, programs and developments in this area, organizing and informing volunteers and service providers, as well as establishing a dedicated email address and other methods of receiving and disseminating information.
Legislative Advocacy – Researching and analyzing current and recently introduced or enacted immigration laws and executive orders to understand the legal and political landscape, identify opportunities to advocate for change at the State and Federal levels, and weigh any potential risks associated with those efforts. As part of this work the Board has supported SB 6 (Hueso) and AB 3 (Bonta), which would increase funding and training for legal services, and SB 54 (De Leon), which would generally prevent the use of state and local funds to aid federal deportation action and create service provider safe zones.
The Child Deportation Defense Program is pro-bono legal services program run by the County Counsel’s Office that provides representation to children who have fled violent conditions in their home countries and have been detained at the U.S. border and placed in deportation proceedings. The number of these children detained by the Department of Homeland Security has increased from an average of 6,500 per year prior to 2011 to 60,000 in 2016. Although mostly teenage boys in 2011, the number of girls, including pregnant and parenting teens, and younger children has steadily increased.
National statistics show that while a majority of these children likely had a legal basis to stay in the U.S., without an attorney 90% were deported to face abuse and possible death in their country of origin.
The Board first approved the County program in late 2014 and recently renewed its obligation to assist these unaccompanied children. Donated training for the program has been provided by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and volunteer mentor immigration attorneys have been recruited from the community.
To date, 7 Sonoma County children have been served, 4 have been granted legal status, 2 found private counsel through a parent, and 1 is in process. The Project has been honored with awards from the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and has served as the model for similar programs in Santa Clara County and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
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